Independent Curators International supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement.

Independent Curators International supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement.

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Art, Ancestors, Ghosts, & the Dead

A Day of Conversations, Performance, and Film

Jun 3, 2023

New York, NY, USA
The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center

107 Suffolk Street
New York, NY 10002

Panel discussions: 2:00 - 6:00 p.m. 
Screening, performance, and reception: 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Free and open to the public
RSVP here

Join ICI, Protocinema, and The Clemente on Saturday, June 3 for Art, Ancestors, Ghosts, & the Dead, a one-day convening exploring attitudes towards death across cultures. This gathering around grief and death comes at a time of great loss amid wars, viruses, and inhumane border policies and consists of two panel discussions, a film screening, performance, and reception. Participants include: Korakrit Arunanondchai, Shaun LeonardoSofía Gallisá Muriente, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Shahzia Sikander, Laura Raicovich, and Mari Spirito. Conversations will be followed by a screening of Aşit (2022) by Pınar Öğrenci, which follows Öğrenci returning to her father's hometown, Müküs, Turkey, after his death. Art, Ancestors, Ghosts, & the Dead engages perspectives from Puerto Rico, Southeast and South Asia, the United States, and Middle East on personal and collective behavior and the unspoken, yet collective pain of loss.

2:00 - 3:30 pm
Panel 1: Transformations, Mysteries, Renewals: Kameelah Janan Rasheed and Shahzia Sikander, moderated by Laura Raicovich

This discussion will address the cycle of life and the inherent transformations, mysteries, and renewals embedded in the participants’ art and lives. Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s work as a writer, artist, and educator contends with memory, storytelling, and technologies through the lens of Black knowledge production and her Muslim faith. She is particularly concerned with the leakiness of narratives, the incompleteness of storytelling, and the ways that illegibility creates alternate access points and possibilities. Rasheed will discuss the relationship of her work to transformation and unmaking, the ways in which ancestors inform her contemplations and belief systems in constructing realities beyond what is knowable. Shahzia Sikander is a Pakistani-born artist and MacArthur fellow whose work in drawing, painting, film, and sculpture interweaves contemporary concerns with a visual language informed by premodern Central and South Asian painting traditions. Sikander will discuss a particular, sometimes-headless female figure, a duende-esque presence that has appeared in her works from the early 1990s to the present, including the large-scale sculptures of hers currently installed in Madison Square Park and the roof of the Appellate Courthouse. She will discuss the meanings of this form, with entwined and knotted arms and legs, which range from resistance and erasure to assimilation, timelessness, dislocation, and loss.

6:00 pm
Performance: Rehearsal (2023) by Shaun Leonardo

On wordless gesture, a process of physical embodiment of grief; optionally participatory.

4:00 - 5:30 pm
Panel 2: Do It Yourself Or Ancient Mourning? Korakrit Arunanondchai and Sofía Gallisá Muriente, moderated by Mari Spirito

This panel will discuss changing forms of mourning, merging traditional, religious, indigenous, and secular approaches. Sofía Gallisá Muriente, will show sections of Presente Presente Presente (2017), a video exploring how Puerto Rico’s “trend in mortuary services during a time of rampant crime and economic crisis generates new ways of mourning through shared spectacle and the production of images.” The common coping mechanism of refusing to acknowledge the impact of death on ourselves and others and the preoccupation with youth and vitality maintain social order and stability, minimizing the disruptive effects of death and loss. Such a culture of death denial can lead to a lack of support for those who are grieving or facing the end of life, and contribute to a sense of isolation and disconnection from natural life cycles. Thai-American artist Korakrit Arunanondchai’s work often deals with themes of identity, consumerism, and mortality, often through the use of Buddhist philosophy and imagery and of personal narrative and autobiography. By juxtaposing these seemingly disparate elements, Arunanondchai explores the tension between spiritual enlightenment and material desire and is concerned with the ways consumerism distracts us from deeper existential questions around life and death. 

7:30 pm
Screening: Aşit

Aşit (2022) by Pınar Öğrenci explores the tension between the intimate loss of a loved one and that of mass death, in this case, by genocide. Öğrenci returns to her father’s hometown of Müküs, a mountainous village in southern Van, Turkey. It was once home to Armenian communities and today its population consists mainly of Kurdish-speaking people. Aşît is inspired by Stefan Zweig’s final novella The Royal Game (Schachnovelle, 1941), a psychological thriller in which chess becomes a survival mechanism in the face of fascism. Meaning “avalanche” and “disaster” in Kurdish, 'Aşît' refers both to the threat of an avalanche that disconnects Müküs from the rest of the world and to “Meds Yeghern” (The Big Disaster) of 1915. Öğrenci looks to Hayrik Muradian, an Armenian musician who had to escape Van in 1918, to hear the impressive landscape of Müküs. She traces the everyday survival strategies and cultural practices of Müküs people under the pressure of state and religion using the songs Muradian collected from his homeland, laying bare the necropolitics of a nation-state.


Join fellow attendees for a reception following Shaun Leonardo's performance to connect, discuss, and reflect on the day's programming.


The Protocinema Emerging Curator Series section of Art, Ancestors, Ghosts, & the Dead invites young curators of The Clemente’s 2023 programs and the ICI community to participate as Responders to conversations. With their unique perspectives and insights, Laura Rivera-Ayala, Silvia Benedetti and Eva Mayhabal Davis will expand the conversations with researched questions leading to a deeper understanding of the topics.

Presenters & Respondents
Korakrit Arunanondchai

The work of Korakrit Arunanondchai (*1986, Bangkok, Thailand) focuses on the transformative potential of storytelling.

Eva Mayhabal Davis

Eva Mayhabal (b. Toluca, Mexico) is a cultural advocate and curator, collaborating with artists and creatives in the production of exhibitions, texts, and events.

Shaun Leonardo

Shaun Leonardo's multidisciplinary work negotiates societal expectations of manhood, namely definitions surrounding black and brown masculinities, along with its notions of achievement, collective identity, and experience of failure.

Sofía Gallisá Muriente

Sofía Gallisá Muriente is a visual artist who works mainly with video, photography, text and installation.Sofía Gallisá Muriente is a visual artist and cultural organizer whose work resists colonial erasures and claims the freedom of historical agency, proposing mechanisms for remembering and reimagining.

Pınar Öğrenci

Pınar Öğrenci (1973, Van, Turkey) is an artist, filmmaker and lecturer.

Laura Raicovich

Laura Raicovich is a New York City-based writer and curator.

Kameelah Janan Rasheed

Kameelah Janan Rasheed (she/they), grapples with the poetics-pleasures-politics of Black knowledge production, information technologies, [un]learning, and belief formation.

Shahzia Sikander

Shahzia Sikander is widely celebrated for subverting Central and South-Asian miniature painting traditions into dialogue with contemporary international art practices and launching the form known today as neo-miniature.

Mari Spirito

Mari Spirito is Executive Director and Curator of Protocinema, a cross-cultural, site-aware art organization commissioning and presenting exhibitions and public programs in Istanbul and New York, since 2011.

This program is made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council. The event is produced in collaboration with Protocinema and The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Education Center, and is supported in part by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.